The 5 categories of mental chatter

by Christina on June 15, 2010


“For most of us, our minds are a little bit dull. If only there were a mind-sharpener we could stick our heads into.” 
~Richard Freeman

In my attempts to be more mindful, I’ve been thinking about the 5 categories of mental chatter (vrttis) discussed in the Yoga Sutras (chapter I, verse 6):
  1. Right knowledge: a mental image correctly based on facts (i.e. you see a car and make a mental image of a car)
  2. Wrong knowledge: a mental image incorrectly based on facts (i.e. you see a mirage in desert and think it’s water)
  3. Imagination: a creation of the mind (i.e. reading a novel, making up a story, daydreams)
  4. Sleep: absence of content in the mind (your mind is working but you don’t remember it)
  5. Memory: mind re-experiencing previous experiences 

These 5 categories are meant to describe all of the mental images we are ever going to have! 

I’ve been trying to categorize my mental chatter as it comes up during practice… and yes, so far seems that each one can be classified under one of those 5 categories (most distracting thoughts are re-runs of imagination and memory). 
The questions is: how do we quiet these down? According to the Sutras, the answer lies in this (chapter I, verse 12):
Persistent practice and non-attachment… might be the closest we have to a “mind-sharpener.” 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Claudia June 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Yes, persistent practice and non-attachment are the mind sharpeners, love the metaphor… I find it so fascinating the level of discernment that the yoga sutras present, how it can all be brought down to just a few words, amazing.

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John June 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

AND IN BETWEEN PRACTICE AND NON-ATTACHMENT WE ARE IN SEEMINGLY ENDLESS SELF-STUDY, NO? FIRST SEEING OURSELVES IN THE ASANA, THEN SEEING HOW WE ARE, THEN WAITING FOR THE CHANGES TO EVOLVE…GURUJI AND SHARATH HAVE GREAT FAITH IN THE PRACTICE SHOWING US HOW. NO TELLING US HOW TO TEACH, JUST PRACTICE LONG TIME THEN TEACHING FROM "THAT". THANKS FOR STIRRING THE POT…

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Adam June 15, 2010 at 7:36 pm

A fine mind-sharpener:
the viewing of the Alien & Predator movies

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Swapna Raghu Sanand June 23, 2010 at 8:22 am

Liked the mind chatter post, will try to identify my categories too. The mind sharpener quote was cool too.

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Christina June 23, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Thanks Swapna! Just found your blog and am looking forward to catching up on it 🙂

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Ahu June 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Richard is so brilliant and the way you share your experience is so brilliant as well. thanks!

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